This Song Will Save Your Life- Leila Sales

Elise is 16 and miserable.  She has no friends at school and every attempt she makes to try to make friends or fit in blows up in her face.  She feels so hopeless that she thinks about killing herself, going so far as to cut herself with a razor on her wrists.  She calls a girl from school who calls 911.  Flash forward 6 months and Elise is pretty much on house arrest because her parents are worried about her.  She has people to sit with at lunch now, but isn’t measurably much happier.  Especially since there is some pretty vicious online bullying going on.  The only thing keeping her kind of sane is sneaking out at night to take long, meandering walks around town.  That is, until she stumbles upon a night club on one of her midnight walks.  She is instantly accepted for who she is by Vicki, one of the nightclub regulars, and discovers a passion for DJing.  Finding her crowd and her passion really turns things around for Elise, as she finds life worth living and a place where she can truly accept and love herself.

This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t really a story for me.  I didn’t ever want to quit reading it and it was decently written, but I had some major quibbles with the story and the characters that made it hard for me to really get into the book.  Elise is obsessed with being popular/cool and that felt out of place for me for a character who is 16 years old.  This desperation for popularity seemed a bit immature for Elise… sure, I could see her wanting friends and feeling isolated, but the need to be cool felt more like an 11 year old’s wish than a 16 year old’s.  At the same time, Elise’s time on the nightclub and DJ scene seemed to belong to a much older character, at least a freshman in college.  It was hard for me to buy that the bouncer would not only let her in without ID, but that the club owner would offer her her own DJ party when she is younger than legal drinking age.  And her parents later let her continue to attend these parties because she’s so passionate about it.  That’s a lot of lapse of judgment/looking the other way at the law for me to really buy into.

I also had some real trouble with Elise’s suicide attempt.  I am not a fan of suicide as a plot device and that is exactly what it was here… some dramatization to show how seriously awful Elise’s situation is.  And while there is mention of Elise getting therapy and while finding DJing doesn’t instantly solve Elise’s problems or insecurities, I feel like the suicide thing is a cheap shot that isn’t really dealt with on any serious level.  But I really hate suicide in novels, so this probably comes down to personal preference more than anything.

All that to say, this book just pushed a lot of my no-go buttons for YA contemporary.  I didn’t hate it and thought the glimpse into DJing and nightlife was pretty fascinating, but when I spend most of a book wanting to make major revisions to it (make Elise older, cut out the suicide angle, etc.), it’s probably not a book that is meant for me.